The maximum permitted stake on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be cut from £100 to £2, the government has announced after ministers ignored pleas from bookmakers.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport opted for £2 after more than a year of furious argument between anti-FOBT groups and high street bookmakers, who derive more than half of their revenue from the machines.
The Labour MP Carolyn Harris, chair of a cross-party group on FOBTs, said she was “delighted” by the decision.
“This is something I, and others, have long campaigned for. FOBTs have caused too much social harm and huge losses for those who can least afford it.
“Last year there were more than 230,000 individual sessions in which a user lost more than £1,000. These machines have increased the risk of problem gambling, which carries a very significant social and economic cost.
“This was morally the right decision to make and it is victory for all those people whose lives have been blighted by these toxic machines.”
The Guardian has approached the Association of British Bookmakers for comment.
Matt Zarb-Cousin, a former FOBT addict and spokesperson for Fairer Gambling, said: “The work of [sports minister] Tracey Crouch and Carolyn Harris should be commended.
“Allowing high-stakes roulette machines in such an easily accessible environment has had disastrous consequences, impacting levels of gambling related harm and crime.
“The government’s decision to cut the stake back to £2 is the right one and must be enacted as soon as possible. The evidence shows it will reduce harm for those experiencing it, and eliminate the most addictive roulette content, which will significantly reduce problem gambling associated with FOBTs.”
More to follow…